“We’re going to South Carolina for Thanksgiving!” I announced to my surprised but willing family. I’d caught wind that some relatives were gathering at my cousin’s house in Greenville, where he’d recently moved. I hadn’t seen him since his wedding. I thought, “Hmm, I also have this friend in Charleston… might be fun to get our families together like we’ve talked about.” And just like that, the plans were in motion.
A few things you should know about my family: we never spend Thanksgiving the same way twice. Some years we host, some years we spend it with my extended family, some years with my husband’s family, and some years with friends. Also, inviting yourself to holiday celebrations is fine in my family. The more the merrier! At least, it was OK with my cousin. You’ll have to ask his wife later! 😉
I didn’t realize that he would just be moving into a new house. Or that my kids didn’t have as much time off school for the holiday as I thought. Or that return flights would be so expensive that it would be cheaper to rent a car to drive home. Honestly, if I’d thought too much about all these details and loose ends we never would have taken the trip. But in an impulsive and somewhat out-of-character move, I overrode my head and decided with my heart: we were going to SC!
I’m so glad we did. As many of you know, I befriended a fellow writer in Charleston 6 years ago. She went from being a virtual friend to a friend IRL, and we have shared many milestones since then: the birth of our second children (followed by her third), performing in (me) and producing (her) Listen to Your Mother shows in Baltimore and Charleston, visits to each other’s cities, and the launch of a joint project on Instagram. But until this past week, our kids and husbands had never met.
Angie and her family showed us around Charleston for the day, taking us to see the sights: the Battery, the City Market, Folly Beach at sunset. There was no agenda, just exploring and hanging out. The kids ran wild in a pack, climbing on cannons, walking on walls, splashing in fountains. They got along as if they’d always known each other, bonding over Minecraft and Pokemon, buffalo wings and pizza. They shopped for souvenirs, posed for silly photos, and ran barefoot down the beach under a full moon. It was awesome. It went by far too quickly.
We were sad to leave, but excited to visit my family in Greenville. We arrived just in time for my cousin’s 40th birthday dinner with my parents and my aunt and uncle. Over the next couple of days we explored the town (pretty waterfalls!), enjoyed a delicious Thanksgiving meal (cooked by people other than me!), and hung out at my cousin’s new house. I could have been a stress-case about it – their home is straight out of a design blog and my kids, as usual, were covered in dirt, crumbs, and markers – but I wasn’t.
The boys idolized my cousin. They drew pages and pages of comics that he and his wife gamely admired and chuckled over. My 6yo, who has been playing piano for all of 3 months, challenged my cousin to a “piano battle” – never mind that he has been playing for 35 years. Gotta love kids’ confidence! And when our hosts lit a fire in their backyard firepit and pulled out a lawn game called Kubb, the boys were ready to move in. Hurling chunks of wood through the air? Open flames, sharp sticks, and marshmallows? Boy heaven!
Like any family trip, this one was not without hiccups, of course. There were squabbles, meltdowns, and bad moods. I left my wallet in Charleston. The kids stayed up far too late each night. The drive home was really, really long. But I would not trade it for anything.
My kids getting to explore new places, meet new people, bond with relatives they rarely see, bask in the attention of both parents at the same time — this is what memories are made of. Spending time with people who think you’re awesome just because you’re you. Running on a beach at night under the moonlight. Laughing till your stomach hurts. Getting out of your head and your house, going out into the world, leading with your heart.